Tag Archives: mourning

A year later, pain is manageable

I grappled with my heart over whether I wanted to post anything about a sad date that is about to visit my family and me.

I have decided to go ahead with an acknowledgment of the date and a declaration that I am looking toward a bright, adventurous future.

It was a year ago, Feb. 3, 2023, when my phone rang and the nurse at the other end of the call informed me that my beloved bride had just passed away. Cancer took Kathy Anne from my family and me. It was a savage, but brief, bout with glioblastoma.

You know about that. I won’t dwell on it here.

It’s been a remarkable year to say the very least. I have embarked on what I have described as a journey through darkness. I am quite happy to proclaim, though, that the light is shining much brighter today than it dared shine on the worst day of our lives.

I have made the trek, recovering from the intense pain one always feels when you suffer such a loss. I have sought to chronicle my journey on this blog. I have shared the highs and lows of the past year. It has been cathartic and therapeutic. It has given me emotional relief to share these experiences on this blog platform.

Kathy Anne | Search Results | High Plains Blogger

Thus, I am glad to have done so, although to be sure, I would wish only that I never had to embark on that journey. But … I did. So did my family and we are counting the blessings of having each other to recall the joy we shared with my bride.

The future now awaits. I am embracing it fully and I have committed to living every single day going forward as if it is my final day on this good Earth.

My friends have told me the “pain will never disappear, but it will become manageable.” It has … and it won’t stop me from living the fullest life possible.

A different new year awaits

Normally, I am inclined to approach the end of a year with a shrug and an “I’ll take whatever comes next” attitude.

2023 has been, and please excuse the understatement, a radically different span of time for my family and me. We lost the rock of our family at the first of the year when cancer struck my dear bride, Kathy Anne. She passed away Feb. 3 and for the time in my entire life I was left to fend for myself. Yes, I have my sons, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter nearby. I cherish them beyond all measure. However, I am on my own in many ways large and small.

I told someone close to me recently that I lived with my parents until my late teens; then I was inducted into the Army; I served two years under Uncle Sam’s watchful eye; I returned to Mom and Dad’s home; then I met a gorgeous girl in college; we got married shortly thereafter; we were husband and wife for 51 blissful years.

Then she was gone. Just like that. Do you get what I mean by “alone”?

I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions. This year is different. My new year’s resolution — and I am going to declare it here — will be to continue my search for happiness. I will make another declaration. It is that my path is considerably brighter today than it was for most of 2023. I don’t yet know where it will end for me.

I have been able during the months since I lost Kathy Anne to travel through much of the country. I embarked on trips to, as I noted, to “clear my head and mend my heart.” I am happy to report that my noggin is pretty clear as I write these words and my heart is enduring far fewer spasms of grief. I need to state, though, that Kathy Anne’s illness and passing wasn’t the end of my sorrow. On Dec. 1 I lost Toby the Puppy, my companion and best buddy, as he no longer could battle the cancer that ravaged his body.

I am gathering up all the paper calendars I have collected in my house in Princeton and on Dec. 31 I intend — per a suggestion from a friend — to conduct a 2023 calendar-burning event in my back yard. I might even yelp for joy as I watch the flames engulf the numbers “2023.”

When the flames subside and the embers cool in the fire pit, I will commence my journey forward. Kathy Anne insisted many years ago that I seek happiness were she to leave this Earth first. Therefore, I am following her directive.

Forward is the only path for me.

Here is to a much happier year ahead.

Despair arrived … then vanished

Almost from the moment I began to shake myself loose from the intense pain I felt on the worst day of my life, I knew days like today would knock me back on my heels.

My worst day occurred on Feb. 3, when my beloved bride Kathy Anne was taken from us by an aggressive form of brain cancer. My journey since then has experienced its ups and downs; the good news is that the down periods are far less frequent these days as the light along my emotional trail gets brighter.

Then days like today arrive. This is Kathy Anne’s 72nd birthday. It’s the first such birthday without her. Those of you who have lost loved ones — and that includes just about every human being who’s ever lived — understand the difficulty of these “firsts.”

My sons and I went to the cemetery to pay our respects to her and to tell her we are doing OK. We miss her terribly. However, it is important for me to stipulate that Kathy Anne was a pragmatic woman. She dealt with reality often stoically. She wasn’t one to wallow in her own sorrow and didn’t like it when others did so.

She all but ordered me many years ago to get on with my life if she were to depart this good Earth before me. Like most husbands who enjoy successful marriages, I am doing what I was told to do. I have re-entered the world of social interaction. Therefore, I have reason to hope for many more brighter days and far fewer darker ones.

I believe today was about as dark as it is likely to get for me moving forward. My sons, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter are suffering through their own pain as well. The good news is that we all know we are there for each other.

So … my journey continues. The pain that returned when I awoke this morning was expected. I was ready for it. I got through it.

What’s more, I am quite certain tomorrow will arrive with the sun shining brightly. I will enjoy the day. Kathy Anne would insist on it.

Trek finds new traction

My bride once asked me — while we attended the 10-year reunion of my Portland, Ore., high school class — why I wasn’t reuniting with the female classmates gathered at a city park where we all met.

My answer to Kathy Anne: I was “painfully shy” as a teenager. I was uncomfortable talking to girls, I told her. Less than four years after graduating from high school, the sensational young woman whom I would marry broke me of my shyness … if you know what I mean.

I recently declared my intention to return to the world “social interaction” since losing my dear bride to cancer this past February. I am a lot more socially skilled than I was a teenager. I like talking to “girls” these days and if you’ll pardon my candor, I am pretty good at it.

I still get a bit jittery at the prospect of asking someone on a date. I still don’t always say the correct thing at precisely the correct moment.

I also realize something else. I am nearly 74 years of age. Thus, time is not my ally. I figure that if I am going to find someone with whom I want to spend copious amounts of time in my final years on Earth, I had better get busy.

Thus, my journey through the post-mortem grief of losing the love of my life is getting brighter seemingly each day. It isn’t quite so dark these days along the path I have been walking since I bid farewell to my beloved Kathy Anne.

My destination still is to be determined. As I shake off the shyness that inhibited me as a youth, I know I’ll find that place sooner rather than later.

Is this ‘premature’? Umm, no

A statement from a woman whose acquaintance I made recently kind of caught me off guard … until I took a moment to process it.

She wondered if I was being “premature” in my effort to restart my life after losing my bride, Kathy Anne, to cancer in February. “It hasn’t even been a year,” she said, alluding to those upcoming “firsts” one endures after losing a loved one. You know, first birthday, first Christmas, first New Year’s Eve, first wedding anniversary one should commemorate with the loved one by your side.

I answered her forthrightly. “I believe I am ready” to proceed with my life, I said. Why? Because Kathy Anne would have it no other way. She made her point to me abundantly clear once or twice when we both were in the peak of health. “I want you to find happiness,” she instructed me in a stern voice, in the event she preceded me to her Great Reward.

My marriage succeeded over the course of 51 years largely because I followed the rule most husbands must follow: I did what my wife told me to do.

Do not ever misconstrue this carved-in-stone fact, which is that no woman ever can replace the love of my life. If I am able to find a new partner, she will understand that fact. My sons, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter all know that about me. They know that Kathy Anne always will be first in my heart.

The task for me emotionally always will be to deal with the pain that is certain to flare on occasion. It will happen without warning. Indeed, I am functioning quite well while performing this or that task.

There can be no doubt that Feb. 3, 2023 was the worst day of my life and the lives of my family members. It happened near the beginning of what has turned out to be the crappiest year of my life.

However, I do possess an eternal wellspring of optimism. The future, as they say, is for the living. I intend to live my life on my own terms, albeit while following the instruction of my darling Kathy Anne.

Happiness is out there for me. I intend to find it.

Journey nearing its end

My journey through the darkness has found sufficient light for me to declare that I believe it is nearing its end.

Does that mean the destination is near, that I have no more distance to travel before I can declare my life has been (more or less) restored since the passing of the only woman I’ve ever loved with all my heart?

It means only that I can see much more clearly these days, that I can profess openly that I am ready for a relationship if the right one were to present itself. I don’t mean to sound coy or cagey. I only mean to tell you the obvious, which is that my heart is likely to remain permanently damaged and that I am learning the complexities of dealing with the pain.

Kathy Anne’s brief but savage fight with glioblastoma at the beginning of this horrible year will remain with me for the rest of my life on Earth. She had six weeks from her diagnosis to the end. The oncologist who was scheduled to treat her called her form of cancer “the most aggressive” he ever has seen.

That was then. The here and now puts me in a position to start to move on, to commence with the rest of my life. My beautiful bride, Kathy Anne, was 71 when she passed. I am almost 74. She was in good health until, well, she wasn’t. I am in reasonably good health … at this moment. The events of this year have taught me the bitterest of lessons. One of them is that at my age, health can turn from blessing to curse in rapid fashion.

I am not going to sit around, awaiting the outcome I know awaits all of us. I intend to live, just as Kathy Anne insisted I do back when we both were young and had a long life ahead of us.

There will be more tales to tell about my journey as it progresses into the blinding light of the living. I’m not there yet.

But, damn … I believe it’s getting closer!

Following bride’s advice

My late bride once informed me — and I don’t recall the precise time or even the context of the conversation — that she didn’t want me to grieve forever if she left this Earth before I did.

“I want you to be happy,” Kathy Anne told me with a note of sternness in her voice. “If you find someone, then you should pursue that relationship,” she added. My response was similar, but not identical. I believe I answered with, “I want the same for you sweetie, but to be honest the thought of you being ‘with’ another man would drive me out of my mind.”

Well, Kathy Anne did leave this world first. I believe I am ready, though, to follow her instruction about finding happiness.

This journey I’ve been on since the worst day of my life likely will never end. The journey has been dark and at times full of sadness. Until just recently. It has brightened a bit largely because my own head has cleared and I am able to actually think about where I want to be in, say, three to five years.

I do not intend to move from Princeton, Texas. This will remain my forever home, as it belonged to Kathy Anne and me and served to be our base of operations while we visited our granddaughter, her parents and while we traveled throughout this great big, gorgeous country of ours. I’m still able to all of that, although the travel plans have changed a bit; but I am making that work, too.

As for future companionship, well, I will let that play out in due course. I have advised my sons — and any young man willing to listen to this advice — against “looking for the girl of your dreams. She will just show up.” It happened to one of my sons, and it damn sure happened to me. My other son will find that individual, I am sure, one day.

So will I. Thus, I am declaring that I won’t resist the tug into a new relationship when it starts to pull. But whoever comes along will need to understand the nature of the huge hole that remains in my permanently damaged heart.

If she has taken steps along a journey of her own, I am certain that she’ll get it.

Lots written already … more to come

Sometimes I am motivated by forces I cannot understand, let alone explain … such as the force this afternoon that pushed me into looking into the volume of blog posts I have published about the loss of my bride to cancer.

I looked at the archive and noticed that, well, holy crap, I have written a lot about this journey I am on.

Here’s the link that would give you an idea of what I’ve written already about Kathy Anne:

Search Results for “Kathy Anne” – High Plains Blogger (wordpress.com)

Now comes a question I have asked myself: When am I going to give it a rest? My answer is simple. Not any time soon.

I am motivated partly by selfish concerns. One of them is that writing about my bride is cathartic, therapeutic and even a bit comforting. We all need comfort, therapy and catharsis when circumstances compel them, right?

The worst day of my life is fading farther into the past. I get that I shouldn’t wallow in the intense pain that overwhelmed my family and me in the moment. I truly am not wallowing in it. As a matter of fact, I am actually getting past much of the pain as time goes by.

I also know that I am not alone in this grief. What we are feeling in this moment is very much like what billions of other families have endured since the beginning of time. They got through it. So will we.

However, my attempt by using the blog to comment on our loss is just to give some affirmation to others who have gone through what we are enduring. Therefore, the quest for support is not a one-way endeavor. I hope to give as much affirmation as whatever I receive.

So, I am going to stay on this topic, writing about my family’s journey as time and events compel me.

What’s more … writing this blog keeps me alert.

Another trek awaits

I don’t have a need to preview my next road trip with Toby the Puppy, but I do want to explain briefly what I expect to gain from my next venture away from my North Texas home.

Not much … truth be told.

Is it my destination that bums me out? Hardly. I am heading to suburban Phoenix to visit a couple of cousins who have taken residence there. One of them invited to see him there; he lives part time in Arizona. The other cousin recently moved there from Portland. We’ll have a chance to catch up and I will take the opportunity to fill them both in on the details of the tragedy that befell my family and me at the start of the year.

As for the head-clearing, heart-mending aspect of this venture, well, I am happy to report that my noggin is essentially clear and my heart — while it remains severely damaged from the loss of Kathy Anne to cancer — is in a much more manageable state than it was prior to my previous sojourns.

I won’t lie about this matter: 2023 has been the sh**iest year of my life! There is nothing I can do to redeem this year. However, I am able to cope better with the circumstance that brought such pain.

I am hoping to declare victory over the pain in due course.

One of those ‘firsts’ awaits

A sad day awaits me in the morning, as the day will unfold without my bride alongside me to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

This will be one of those “firsts” I mentioned in an earlier blog post. It will mark the first wedding anniversary since I lost Kathy Anne to the savage form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

I am not going to belabor the reason for my sadness. Instead, I am going to convey a message I received at church this morning from a gentleman who lost his wife to Alzheimer’s disease about four years ago. He and I have become friends, to be sure.

He told me not to “wallow” in my sadness. Instead, he offered a suggestion that I remember all the fun we had during our 50-plus years as husband and wife.

And, yes, we had a hell of a great ride. We saw almost the entire United States of America, several countries in Europe and Asia. We ventured to the Holy Land together. We laughed out loud for so much of it. Yes, we endured some pain together through the loss of family members, but the pain subsided and we returned quickly to those things that gave us joy.

We watched our sons become great men and cheered the successes they enjoyed as they have made their own marks on this world.

I will remember fondly all of that … and something the preacher told me prior to us taking our marriage vows. The ceremony, he said, would last just 22 minutes. “It will be over before you know it,” he said.

He was right. It was the quickest 22 minutes of my life. I’m glad it ended so rapidly, because the next 51 years were a riot!